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1714 to 1815 - Under the House of Hanover

George I left the navy pretty nearly in the state in which he found it. At his death, in 1727, tho list consisted of 233 ships, measuring 170,862 tons, being a decrease in number of 14, but an increase in tonnage of 3643 tons.

George II was engaged in a war with Spain in 1739, in consequence of which the size of ships of tho line ordered to be built was considerably enlarged. On the restoration of peace in 1748 it was found that England's naval strength had prodigiously increased. The loss had been little or nothing, while the English had taken' and destroyed 20 French and 15 Spanish sail of tho lino, besides smaller vessels. The war with Franco of 1756 added considerably to the list, so that at the king's decease in 1760 it consisted of 412 ships, measuring 321,104 tons.

English merchants were continually breaking through the trade colonial barriers erected by Spain, Holland, and France, and were planting trading stations both in the far East and the far West. The foundation of the American colony of Georgia (1732), which encroached on Spanish Florida, showed the "forward tendency" of Great Britain; while the persistent smuggling of goods into the Spanish American colonies showed the determination of English merchants to ignore Spanish trade laws. The Spaniards were thus led to use the "right of search" of British vessels on the high seas.

In 1740 fleets under Admirals Anson and Vernon were sent out to seize Spanish colonial ports. Anson sailed entirely around the world, doing great harm to Spanish shipping; but Vernon failed in his attempts to gain control of Cuba or of the Isthmus of Panama. For the rest, the fighting consisted mainly of privateering expeditions. In one year six hundred prizes were taken, and the Spanish colonial merchant fleet was swept from the seas.

In the short war of 1762, George III added no less than 20 sail of the line to the navy. At tho conclusion of the American war in 1782, tho list of the navy was increased to 600 sail ; and at the signing of the preliminaries in 1783 it amounted to 617 sail, measuring upwards of 500,000 tons, being an increase of 1S5 ships tmd 157,000 tons and upwards since the year 1762. At the peace of Amiens the list of tho fleet amounted to upwards of 700 sail, of which 144 were of the line. The number taken from the enomy, or destroyed, amounted nearly to 600, of which 90 were of tho line, including 50-gun ships, and upwards of 200 were frigates ; tho English loss amounted to about 60, of which 6 were of the line and 12 frigates.

The two naval mutinies of 1797 illustrate with emphasis the incompetence of red tape and routine to cope with exceptional crises. Britain's empire over the seas was won in the teeth of Downing Street, and this rebellion on home waters would have been fatal, had Downing Street prevailed. In their origin, they alleged certain tangible material grievances, which were clearly stated, and, being undeniable, were redressed. The mutinies were a well-organized strike conducted in surprisingly good order by the seamen to obtain the redress of specific, well-founded grievances such as inadequate pay, poor and insufficient food, and incompetent officers.

When the original mutiny of the Channel fleet broke out, the real grievances of the seamen were redressed, promptly, fully, and frankly. The subsequent mutiny at Sheerness brought out the fact that the real grievances of the sailors were complicated with very fictitious ones. The firm resistance to the misled men at the Nore was as well-timed and as successful as the just concession to the Channel mutineers had been a month before. Unconditional submission was insisted upon. The most energetic measures were taken to prevent further mischief. And the bad leaven was at length effectually removed.

The men returned to their duty ; but, like a horse that has once taken the bit between his teeth, the restive feeling remained, fermenting in a lot of vicious material which the exigencies of the day had forced the navy to accept. Coinciding in time with the risings in Ireland, 1796-98, there arose between the two movements a certain sympathy, which was fostered by the many Irish in the fleets, where agents were in communication with the leaders of the United Irishmen on shore.

The recommencement and long continuance of the revolutionary war, the glorious successes of England in naval actions, and the protection required for the extended commerce, of which, in fact, Britain might be said to enjoy a monopoly, and for the security of tho numerous colonies, contributed to raise the British navy to a magnitude to which the accumulated navies of the whole world bore but a small proportion. From 1808 to 1813 there were seldom less than from 100 to 106 sail of tho lino in commission, and from 130 to 1GO frigates, and upwards of 200 sloops, besides bombs, gun-brigs, cutters, schooners, &c., amounting in the whole to about 500 sail of effective ships and vessels, to which may be added 500 more in the ordinary, and as prison, hospital, and receiving ships,- making at least 1000 pennants, and measuring from 800,000 to 900,000 tons.

The ships of line in 1807 consisted of twenty-five in point of number, with seven receiving ships, from eighteen to twenty on Repair, and from twenty-eight to thirty, all of the line, building. Twenty- five sail were in, port and fitting.; about thirty-two in the English Channel, Irish, and North seas; twelve on the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar ; six in the West Indies, eleven in the East Indies and at thce Cape of Good Hope; with twenty in' pursuit of the enemy. Such was the distribution of the British naval force, consistiag of one hundred and thirty-two sail of the line in commission, and seventy-nine in ordinary. In addition to this formidable armament there were about thirty-three fifties and forty-fours, two hundred and thirty-four frigates, two hundred and sixty-two sloops.

The commissioners appointed to inquire into the state and condition of the woods, forests, and land revenues of the crown state, in their report to parliament, in the year 1792, that, "at the accession of his majesty (George III) to the throne, the tonnage of the royal navy was 321,104 tons, and at the end of the year 1788 it had risen to no less than 413,467 tons." In 1808 it had amounted to the enormous total of 800,000 tons, having nearly doubled itself in twenty years. It must not, however, be supposed that the effective navy consisted of more than half this amount of tonnage.

Since the conclusion of the war with France, it would appear that at least one-half of the ships had been sold or broken up as unfit for service ; and as, by the list of the fleetat the beginning of the year 1821, the number of ships and vessels of every description, in commission, in ordinary, building, repairing, and ordered to be built, had been reduced to 609 sail, we may take the greatest extent of the tonnage at 600,000 tons ; but the greater part, if not the whole, of this tonnage was efficient, and in a state of progressive efficiency.

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Page last modified: 16-11-2015 17:59:22 ZULU